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Thursday, 7 July 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - In submitting his amendment, Senator Payne said that the suggestion to give the employees representation on the proposed Board was not new in Australia. It would not only be an innovation in Australia, but in every other part of the world, because I have had exhaustive inquiries made, and find that there is not a single instance in which public servants are represented on Boards which have the power to determine wages and classification.

Senator Benny - What is done in New Zealand?

Senator RUSSELL - There they have three Commissioners, one of whom is the senior, and the other two act as his assistants. If we established the right of public servants to have representation on a Board which fixes salaries and classifications we would interfere considerably with our existing legislation, in which provision has already been made for wages to be fixed by Arbitrators and Arbitration Courts. When cases are submitted to an Arbitration Court they are dealt with by independent Judges, who come to a decision after hearing evidence from both sides. The proposed Board is to fix wages and adjust the classification, as well as place men in, certain positions. We have already provided that appeals can be made from the Board to an Arbitrator, and in that way the public servants have rights equal to those enjoyed by other citizens. If it is to be conceded that it is right to give a representative of the Public Service an opportunity to assist in fixing salaries, other workers will have the right to claim a similar privilege. Even after awards have been made by Arbitration Courts numerous complaints have been made, and industrial chaos has been caused in many directions. I have a very high opinion of the public servants, many of whom are quite capable of performing this work; but if a representative of the Service were to act asa member of the proposed Board he would be performing dutiesin which those he represented would be personally interested. It is unfair to give the Service the representation suggested; and, although a memberof the Public Service could be found who would perform the duties perhaps as well as any other citizen, he should not be placed in such a position, for the reasons I have indicated. Imagine 30,000 men saving to the selected representative, "What is your policy?" He would have to say that it would be his endeavour to fight for the highest wages for all, and the Lordhelp him if he did not stand by that. If the public servants were being sweated, such a proposal as that embodied in the amendment might be considered, but as we have a Public Service Arbitrator to whom dissatisfied public servants can appeal from the Board, I ask the Committee not to support the amendment.

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